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Flintstones, Jerky Boyz, and Scooby-Doo - Teams Set for 10th Annual Potomac Cup Golf Battle
To watch the Virginia Potomac Cup golf team smile, cheer, and rally around each other at Lake Presidential Golf Club yesterday afternoon, you'd never know they were only one year removed from a record 29-7 pasting at the hands of Maryland. Yet after returning six players from last year's squad and adding two new faces at the top, Team Blue is optimistic about their chances to avenge the worst drubbing in Potomac Cup history and bring the trophy back across the river.
Veterans Frank Romano, Mark Vandegrift, Tom Lantz, Chris Robb, Steve Ciliberti, and Mark Waslo all returned to Virginia Captain Steve Czaban's 12-man roster and will face Maryland's Team Red at Rocky Gap Resort August 27-29. A total of fifty 2-man best ball teams competed at yesterday's grueling qualifier, twenty-five on either side. The top six teams from both Maryland and Virginia made their respective squads. The finals formation mirrors that of the Ryder Cup: two days of doubles - morning foursomes and afternoon four balls - followed by Sunday singles. Virginia leads the overall series 5-4.
"We're excited, and we're going to give them all they can handle," said Vandegrift, who fired a 4-under 68 with Romano to finish second in qualifying for the squad. "We've got some scrappers on this side, and we're going to give them all they can handle. We're going to play much better than last year, so Maryland better be ready," he concluded firmly.
"We'll play better and we'll play smarter, but most importantly, we'll gel better and have some team chemistry," agreed the feisty Ciliberti, who shot a 2-under 70 with Kolani "The Flyin' Hawaiian" Cotner, a promising newcomer playing in his first Cup. They finished tied for fourth for Team Blue, along with Waslo and his new partner, Michael Keating.
Last year's star Virginia rookies Robb and Lantz - who resemble Shaggy and Freddy from the Scooby-Doo cartoons - finished third with a 3-under 69. Newcomers Roger Derflinger and Matt Plumer won Virginia's medalist honors with a 5-under 67. Their six birdies were balanced against just one bogey, a head-scratcher at the short par-3 12th, the easiest hole on the course with its large green and accessible pin placements.
"Our team is much better and much deeper than last year's squad," explained an energized Steve Czaban. "I love last year's guys, but we were weak at the bottom end, and that was exploited. This year, Maryland's top end is better again, but in match play that gets mitigated."
Don't rush to relay that benediction however, and certainly not to the bookmakers. Maryland didn't just beat the bottom of the Virginia line-up last year: the pummeled everybody, throughout the entire competition. Team Red opened the event with a 6-0 skunking in Friday Foursomes play, normally Virginia's strength, built the lead to 9-0 lead before Virginia scored its first point, and clinched the Cup Saturday afternoon, making Sunday's singles an afterthought. The only suspense was whether Maryland could put up 30 points. They came close, and the 29-7 shellacking also set records for most points scored, largest margin of victory, and fewest points surrendered. The defining moment of the tournament was when Maryland player-assistant captain Vance Welch told the squad they should try for a record setting win and "if anyone wants a piece of anybody on Virginia, just let me know."
Still, there is good news for Virginia, not only because of who made their team, but who missed qualifying for Maryland. Four Breton Bay members who were staples of last year's "Killer Bees" team fell short yesterday. Bill Jenner, Pete DeTemple, Brent Martin, and Greg "Cookie Monster" Roberts were edged out, Martin and Roberts in a three-hole playoff for the last spot. Breton Bay will send two newcomers, Mark Cusic and Greg Winkler, who finished second for Maryland with a 4-under 68.
As usual, Maryland's battle standard will be carried by the unquenchable Vance Welch, 2008 Maryland player of the year, and owner of the greatest career win percentage in tournament history, a staggering 18-4-2. Welch and Steve Martin won overall medalist honors with a bogey-free 7-under 65.
Two other veterans, Rusty Pies and Lee Flemister, return as well after finishing tied for 3rd with 3-under 69s with their respective partners, Zac Lese and Joe Rizzo. Cup rookies Rodney Frank, Bill Lange, Nick Keefer, and Eli Baltic round out a Maryland team that will head to Rocky Gap Resort and try for a three-peat.
"I feel great about my team," bellowed Maryland Captain Ron Thomas, in a voice every bit as authoritative as long-time, iconic Maryland Captain Jeff Sheehan. "We have our leaders, Welch, Martin, and Pies, and we are back-to-back defending champions. Until someone takes that from us, it's ours. So quit talking and let's play golf," he concluded, sending a mischievous grin at Steve Czaban.
So as the teams pack up and get ready to head to the bucolic splendor of Cumberland County, Maryland has some new faces, but still retains its sturdy backbone. Welch, Pies, and Flemister went a combined 12-3 last year. One man can't win you a team golf event, but three can bring you right to victory's doorstep. While Virginia's team seems to have found a good balance of old veterans and strong new players and clearly has excised the listless lugnuts that dragged them down in '09, Maryland still looks deeper on paper, though the gap has closed from the ridiculous laugher last year.
For Virginia to pull off the upset, Vandegrift will have to shoulder anchor and opening duties and play no worse than .500 against the teeth of Maryland's line-up. Then Ciliberti, Robb, and Lantz will have to go from being plucky little rookies to being breakout stars; it's the only way they can counter the firepower Maryland brings 1 - 12. Moreover, someone will have to take the leadership role both on and off the course that Vance Welch does so admirably for Maryland. Indeed, Captain Ron Thomas has the easiest job in the Cup: just let Welch do all the motivating, heavy lifting, and deep thinking. All Thomas has to do is show up, smile, and cheerlead.
Opening line: Maryland -4.5
News, Notes & Quotes
Maryland Captain Ron Thomas should try to rookies Rodney Frank and Joe Rizzo together in a "Jerky Boyz" pairing, ("FRANK RIZZO!"). Maybe they can play Virginia's "Marky Mark" pairing of Waslo and Vandegrift. Who wouldn't want to see Marky Mark vs. The Jerky Boyz?
"Rocky Gap is a great finals venue," gushed Maryland's Rusty Pies. "It's a challenging and beautiful course, and the resort is top notch, A-plus. It's a wonderful place for a getaway. It's fantastic for the Potomac Cup."
"It is a bit of paradise," added Vance Welch. "It's right on the water and they have a great beach, all the summer sports you can imagine, and when the sun rises over the lake in the morning it's, heavenly."
Clockmaker…err…"horologist" Lee Flemister may also clean your clock on the golf course, but those "Five Fingers" shoes he wears set off every dork alarm in DelMarVa.
Rocky Gap Resort may be in Cumberland, Maryland, but the address is actually listed as the town of "Flintstone." No word yet on whether they serve brontosaurus burgers. Nevertheless, let's meet the Flintstones - here are the final rosters for the 10th Potomac Cup:
1. Roger Derflinger/Matt Plumer 67
2. Mark Vandegrift/Frank Romano 68
3. Chris Robb/Tom Lantz 69
T-4. Steve Ciliberti/Kolani Cotner 70
Mark Waslo/Mike Keating 70
T-6. ***Duncan Puller/Don Hollis 71
***won 4-for-1 playoff on the fifth extra hole over:
T-6 Mark Fegani/Gus Kearney 71
Terry Banks/John Lombardozzi 71
Tim Ferraro/Mark Boedicker 71
1. Vance Welch/Steve Martin 65
2. Mark Cusic/Mark Winkler 68
T-3. Rusty Pies/Zac Lese 69
Lee Flemister/Joe Rizzo 69
5. Bill Lange/Rodney Frank 70
T-6. ***Nick Keefer/Eli Baltic 71
***won 2-for-1 playoff on the fourth extra hole over:
T-6 Brent Martin/"Cookie Monster" Roberts 71
Since launching his first golf writing website in 2004, http://www.jayflemma.thegolfspace.com, Jay Flemma's comparative analysis of golf designs and knowledge of golf course architecture and golf travel have garnered wide industry respect. In researching his book on America's great public golf courses (and whether they're worth the money), Jay, an associate editor of Cybergolf, has played over 220 nationally ranked public golf courses in 37 different states. Jay has played about 1,649,000 yards of golf - or roughly 938 miles. His pieces on travel and architecture appear in Golf Observer (www.golfobserver.com), Cybergolf and other print magazines. When not researching golf courses for design, value and excitement, Jay is an entertainment, copyright, Internet and trademark lawyer and an Entertainment and Internet Law professor in Manhattan. His clients have been nominated for Grammy and Emmy awards, won a Sundance Film Festival Best Director award, performed on stage and screen, and designed pop art for museums and collectors. Jay lives in Forest Hills, N.Y., and is fiercely loyal to his alma maters, Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts and Trinity College in Connecticut.